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Washington StateThe Collaborative on Health and the Environment – Washington

A Partnership Network for Environmental Health
Established and Coordinated by the Institute for Children's Environmental Health

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Indoor Environmental Quality

There are many contaminants in indoor environments including toxic substances in house dust, radon and environmental tobacco smoke. Many contaminants are unique to indoor environments. Exposure to contaminants in indoor environments is especially important because most people spend about 90% or more of their time indoors.

Indoor air contaminants may come from many sources, including outdoor air. Sources include emissions from building materials, paints and coatings, adhesives, furnishings, carpet and other floor coverings, cleaning products, combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products, building materials and insulation, cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products, products used for hobbies, radon, and pesticides.

Summary of Information on Washington State

From National Organizations:

House Dust

In 2004, the Environmental Working Group released a study called "In the Dust: Toxic Fire Retardants in American Homes". The study looked at levels of PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in ten homes in the US. One home in Seattle had a level of 5,912 parts per billion – the 3rd highest of the homes studied.

A study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency on "Chemical Contaminants in House Dust: Occurrence and Sources" looked at levels of PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) in eight homes in Seattle. Other studies by the same author have looked at:

Radon

The Environmental Protection Agency has prepared a "Map of Radon Zones" for Washington State showing that seven counties have the highest potential for high radon levels –Clark, Skamania, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Spokane, and Pend Oreille Counties.

From State Organizations:

Radon

In a related study cited in the State's "Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan", the Department of Health found that ten counties in Washington State “high radon potential" and one –Spokane –has “very high potential". Counties in eastern Washington tend to have a higher potential than western ones. An estimated 400,000 Washington State residents live in homes with high or very high radon potential.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Information from the Washington Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program states about 12% of adults in the State are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke at home and about 7% are exposed at work.

From Local Organizations:

Indoor air quality is an important issue for many schools in Washington State, however there is very little scientific information available.

From Academic Institutions:

One study from the University of Washington looked at the Behavioral Changes Following Participation in a Home Health Promotional Program in King County, Washington.

Another study has looked at Pesticides in Household Dust and Soil: Exposure Pathways for Children of Agricultural Families.

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Information on Washington State in Context

It is difficult to contextualize the information on indoor air and environments in Washington State because of the general shortage of data.

Quality of Information on Washington State

There is very little information available on indoor environments in Washington State. There is some information on levels of PBDEs in house dust, radon, and environmental tobacco smoke. There is a need for more information on this topic because most people spend about 90% or more of their time indoors.

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General Information Sources

Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov

Washington State Department of Health: www.doh.wa.gov

American Lung Association of Washington: www.alaw.org